Autodidacts, rejoice! Picking up a new skill is as easy as a Google search, these days, and it often costs nothing at all. Anything from advanced photography classes to foreign language lessons to MIT linear algebra courses are at the fingertips of anyone with an internet connection. As good as a Netflix marathon feels, sometimes learning something new may be the best way to fend off boredom online.
Instead of shelling out your hard-earned cash for Rosetta Stone, you can fine-tune your language skills for free with websites like Duolingo and Livemocha. Livemocha allows users to interact with native speakers (which might be the next best thing to traveling to where the language is spoken), while Duolingo involves translating webpages to practice the language you’re learning. These sites can be used in tandem with formal language classes or independently if you possess the dedication and ability to follow-through.
If you could spend hours learning a little bit about a lot of topics, Khan Academy should be the newest addition to your bookmarks. All in one afternoon, it’s possible to brush up on Newton’s law, learn a little bit about art history, and try your hand at coding. Every time I log on, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I don’t know what to click on next because I want to learn it all!
However, if you crave the structure of a university course and would like to focus in on one subject, Coursera might be your dream come true. Coursera connects you to top university courses, including lectures, discussions with peers, and interactive learning tools all without the burden of tuition payments. It’s mind-blowing how many subjects Coursera offers, so we suggest you visit the site and simply type in what you’d like to learn. Chances are, there’s a perfect course for you. Additionally, MIT’s YouTube, Stanford Online, and Tufts Opencourseware are just a few more sites where you can access free courses at top universities.
Perhaps the most obvious of all free places to learn new skills online is YouTube. If you take the time to search, you’ll find how-to guides for photography techniques, workout routines, guitar chords, new makeup ideas, et cetera. If you think of it, someone has probably made a channel to teach you about it.
The best method for learning something new online, in my experience, is treating it the same as you treat a university class. Set time aside each week to focus on and find other outlets to expand your knowledge. For language skills, seek out a group in your community that speaks the language, rent movies in that language, and attempt to read online news articles. If your goal is to master the guitar, try to supplement your YouTube lessons with lessons from a friend who knows their way around a six-string. Online lessons alone are usually not enough to make you a pro; your mastery depends wholly on your dedication.
The open source learning revolution cannot yet replicate one-on-one time with a teacher, nor does it result in a degree. But for anyone with an internet connection, it has opened the doors to dabbling in just about anything. Free knowledge is out there for the taking; the only investment you have to make is little of your time.